Monday, June 24, 2013

Deactivate your Facebook account!


Malaysians have firmly entrenched Facebook in their lives

Did you know that Malaysians have the most number of Facebook friends in the world? A British research agency, TNS, revealed that on average Malaysians have 233 Facebook friends and spend roughly nine hours a week on Facebook. What a lot of time indeed!

Before proudly shouting Malaysia Boleh!, think about what this actually means. Facebook has become an integral part of our lives like nasi lemak, hence we need to fully understand its consequences before it becomes an enemy. Only a fraction of your Facebook friends are your actual friends.

It has become to easy to be Facebook friends with anyone. The list includes your neighbour’s best friend’s sister whom you once met at a Christmas party. The time spent on Facebook per week is disturbing. If today’s youth spend hours communicating online, what is the impact on their real life communication and social skills?

THE PERILS OF FACEBOOK

As we all know, online communication is a distant, disfigured cousin of face-to-face communication. Communication is a delicate tool with many layers to it.

To start off, there is verbal and non-verbal communication. This consists of spoken words, pauses, hand gestures, facial expressions, body language, vocal variety and intonation.

Facebook, like many other platforms of online communication, is a different ball game altogether. An entire conversation can take place without even a single properly constructed sentence. For that matter, an entire conversation can take place with just emoticons!

This has resulted in a generation who lack basic communication skills.There are so many people who can have hours of online conversations but can barely have a decent five minute face-to-face chat. In the real world, conversations cannot entirely consist of LOLs and smileys.

IMPAIRED COMMUNICATION

In reality, making new friends and meeting new people does not happen with a literal click. It takes time to build relationships and get to know people. Now, it is possible to be someone’s friend on Facebook without even having a single conversation or interaction with that person.

This destroys the natural flow of human interaction. Communication has been watered down thoroughly indeed. This evolution indicates the ebb of human communication skills.

Besides that, on Facebook, we are unable to observe the other party’s body language. This leaves a gaping hole in the communication flow, as body language makes up for nearly half of non-verbal communication.

Consequently, youngsters whom are major Facebook users are insensitive to body language responses of the other party. This will ultimately result in poor communication skills as youths are unable to decipher the non-verbal response of the other person.

It is also a common trend amongst the youth to respond to text/chat messages first rather than to the person speaking in front of them.

With electronic communication gaining preference over actual conversations, it is a common sight at gatherings to see people busy texting or tweeting instead of talking to the people at the party.

Our minds are tuned to prefer online communication, alienating traditional chit chat. It is a rather rude compulsion to respond to your beeping phone first as opposed to a person talking to you.


  Have we lost our offline communication skills? 

“SO WHAT?”

The inevitable “So what?” will echo from Gen-Y. Arguably, this is progression thanks to technology. Again, the age-old debate of whether technology is a bane or a boon. Using Facebook as an example, technology has created one-dimensional communicators.

There are a few scenarios to consider, the first being a job interview. Employers are invariably complaining about how job applicants are unable to hold a proper discussion despite scores of degrees and higher qualifications.

While they may have the knowledge, they are unable to communicate their ideas effectively. This is a career crutch, so to speak, because being able to shine in the workplace requries solid communication abilities. In this era, communication skills are a golden ticket to securing that job.

Another scenario would be networking events as traditional networking still plays a role in our personal and professional lives. Be it birthday parties, industry launches or university events, human interaction is much needed!

It is wrong to assume that being able to communicate and network skilfully online automatically translates to good face-to-face communication. Learning the art of networking can lead to obtaining valuable contacts and forging important relationships that will go a long way. Savvy communication skills will snag you a potential client or that really hot date.

As always, practice makes perfect. Thus, actively participating in such events instead of being physically there but virtually not (pun intended) will lead to better communication skills. We need to be able to sit down and enjoy a good old fashioned chat.

Another challenge young people face is to communicate with people of different generations, something you would not usually encounter on Facebook. While online, you tend to mingle with people of your age, with similar interests but in reality it is a useful skill being able to talk to anyone and everyone.

A sad scenario nowadays would be a family out for dinner but everyone is glued to his or her smartphone and tablets. Again, there is minimal interaction, defeating the very purpose of having dinner together.

THE PHONE STACKING GAME

There is a popular game to combat this issue; the stacking game. Commonly played with friends, it requires everyone to stack their phone in the middle of the table and the first person who reaches for the phone has to foot the bill. This ensures there is proper conversation and interaction between everyone present, with less virtual distractions.

So, be proactive about the situation. Consciously monitor your online and offline communication. Ensure you have sufficient skills to hold a conversation with just about anyone for a reasonable duration.

Realise that while online communication is good, offline communication will take you a long way especially in terms of career and relationship building. Take the initiative to practise and sharpen your communication skills before it is too late.

There are many organisations out there dedicated to improving communication skills such as Toastmasters International. Find out how you can be part of it.

Should we deactivate Facebook? Admittedly it is a little too harsh, but striking the right balance between our online and offline communication is the key.

Undeniably, Facebook has become part of our lives. Just like McDonald’s, the key is moderation. A good practice is to engage with people when with company instead of communicating with someone else online. Learn to be more articulate and expressive when speaking as there are no emoticons! Let us work together to ensure technology does not cause the annihilation of proper communication skills amongst us.





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